English419TwelfthNight

English419TwelfthNight - Edmund St. Gumdrop Delusion and...

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Edmund St. Gumdrop Delusion and Ducats, the role of fantasy and exchange in Twelfth Night "If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken and so die. That strain again, it had a dying fall. O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound That breathes upon a bank of violets, Stealing and giving odour. Enough, no more, 'tis not sweet now as it was before." This speech delivered by Duke Orsino, the romantic dynamo of Twelfth Night , begins the play with a curious take on love. While richly perfumed in idealistic language, Orsino's musing might be taken as a very poetic explanation of the law of diminishing returns, an economic theory remarkable in Twelfth Night by the fact that it's around two
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hundred years before it's time. Of course it's absurd to assume that Shakespeare was some kind of economic visionary, but nevertheless Duke Orsino's speech does something to "quantify" love. Throughout the play romance and economy intermingle as loyalty (and marriage) is obtained through the exchange of material boons. In contrast, those romances founded on such "high" romantic ideals as self-sacrifice, chivalry, and virtue turn out to be pathetically unsuccessful pipe dreams. Twelfth Night achieves its comedic ending through the creation of materially-driven relationships, and reduces the romantic ideals of the characters to mere delusion, thus supporting a very economic, un-ideal vision of love. The character of Orsino portrays himself as a man who is completely devoted to his unrequited love, to the point where he can do little else but sigh about it. He composes poetry and speaks with constant floral imagery; more importantly seems to think that he's making dreadful sacrifices for all of it. He says of his own love that it is "as hungry as the sea" (2.4 98), and compares his desires to "fell and cruel hounds" (1.2 21). The clown Feste humors Orsino's overdramatic attitude by invoking the "melancholy god" on his behalf (2.4 72). Orsino is attempting to convince the reader that he is suffering nobly for love, but it quickly becomes obvious that the duke is fooling himself for his own enjoyment; the reader believes him no more than Olivia. His speech to Cesario about the superiority of his own love to that of a woman speaks strongly of self absorption; his many appeals to Olivia focus more on the strength and depth of his devotion than in flattery of her. He calls his own love "more noble than the world" and instructs Cesario to "surprise her with discourse of my dear faith", and even comically suggests that it would serve him well to "act" his "woes" (1.5 24-25). Of course, though Cesario claims that
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Orsino is wracked by "groans that thunder love; with sighs of fire" (1.5 225), the audience knows that this is all self-constructed garbage. Orsino is very much enjoying himself, and is in love with the concept of love itself rather than Olivia. In this way Shakespeare satirizes the ideal courtly love tradition, which "the discomfort and pain of
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English419TwelfthNight - Edmund St. Gumdrop Delusion and...

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